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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Henry Marcus Quackenbush

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 806-807 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Henry Marcus Quackenbush, a prominent resident of Herkimer, New York, his native city, has been actively and successfully identified with industrial interests here for more than half a century as a manufacturer of hardware specialties. He was born on the 27th of April, 1847, his parents being Isaac and Mary Ann (Rasbach) Quackenbush, both of whom were natives of the Empire state, the former born in Montgomery county and the latter in Herkimer, in which city they were residing when called to their final rest. The family is an old and honored one in the Mohawk valley.

Early in the eighteenth century three brothers named Quackenbush came to America from Holland. One, Peter, settled on Scott's Patent in the present county of Montgomery, New York. His son, David, was employed by Captain John Scott, then in command of Fort Hunter, under the king of England. Captain John Scott was a son of Sir John Scott of Ancrum in Scotland, and a direct descendant of Sir Michael Scott, called the "Wizard of the North" because of his extraordinary discoveries in the science of chemistry. He was mentioned by Dante in his "Inferno," and by Sir Walter Scott in "The Lay of the Last Minstrel". A young officer in the British army under Captain Scott fell in love with the latter's daughter, Miss Ann, and asked David Quackenbush to speak a good word for him to the young lady. This he proceeded to do, incidentally mentioning his own partiality for her. A hint from Miss Ann, indicating her preference for David, instead of the officer, was sufficient. They were married in the Brick church at Albany, New York, May 11, 1723. Their son, Hunter Scott Quackenbush, was the great-grandfather of Henry M. Quackenbush. He served as a private in the Revolutionary war. His wife was Elizabeth Klock Cox, widow of Colonel Ebenezer Cox, who was killed in the battle of Oriskany. Other ancestors of H. M. Quackenbush who served in the Revolutionary war were Marx Rasbach, a second lieutenant; Isaac Elwood, a corporal, wounded at the battle of Oriskany; and Jacob Diefendorf, a captain in Cox's regiment. Those serving in the Colonial wars were Marx Rasbach and Jacob Diefendorf.

Henry Marcus Quackenbush received his education in the Herkimer district school, supplementing this with a course at Whitesboro Academy. After putting aside his textbooks he took up mechanical work in the service of the Remington Arms Company at Ilion, New York. He was employed there as a machine hand and later as a toolmaker, receiving what was, at the time, considered very good pay. His evenings were usually spent experimenting, in a small one-story frame building, ten by twelve feet, which he had fitted up as a workshop. This building was located near his father's residence, both being situated on the old homestead lot where his present residence stands, at No. 219 Prospect street, Herkimer, New York. On the opposite side of the street are now located his factory buildings.

In 1871 he left the Arms Company and embarked in business on his own account in the small frame workshop above mentioned. The first product of the new enterprise was a velocipede having two wheels with cranks and pedals applied to the hub of the front wheel, an invention patented by a Frenchman. Mr. Quackenbush made six of these velocipedes, paying ten dollars apiece royalty to a New York man who owned the patent. After this Mr. Quackenbush invented and patented an air pistol, which encouraged him to borrow money and build a two-story addition, fifteen by twenty feet, to his little workshop, and equip it with machinery. The success of this pistol, with its improvements, induced Pope Brothers of Boston, Massachusetts, to buy the patents and control the manufacture and sale of the goods. Of the many testimonials received complimenting the air pistol, one from the commander-in-chief of the United States Army follows:

"Headquarters Army of the U. S.,
St. Louis, Mo., Feb. 22, 1875.

"Dear Sirs: I have now been in possession of the Rifle Air Pistol for nearly a month. It has a wonderful attraction. Thus far all the parts work well, and nothing is out of order. It is surely ingenious in mechanism, quite accurate in aim, and useful in preparing one for the more serious handling of the ordinary rifle. As such, I have no hesitation in recommending it as the best Parlor Pistol of which I have knowledge.

"Yours truly,

"W. T. Sherman, General."

After selling the patents above referred to, Mr. Quackenbush patented and manufactured many other articles, too numerous to mention here. Of these the ones best known to the world are his air rifles and appurtenances, the safety and small caliber cartridge rifles, nut picks and nut cracks. The quality of his goods has been maintained, and the firm is noted for fair dealing. To meet the demand for his goods it has become necessary from time to time, for him to build larger buildings and to equip them with the best of tools and appliances. Many of the automatic machines used in the factory have been invented by Mr. Quackenbush himself, and the establishment is now among the large and highly esteemed plants in the city of Herkimer.

Mr. Quackenbush is a factor in financial circles as one of the directors of the Herkimer National Bank, and the First National Bank of Canastota, New York. At one time he was a member of the Water and Light Commission of Herkimer, and has been also a trustee of the Herkimer Public Library ever since it was established. He is a member of the Chamber of Commerce of Herkimer. Politically he is a stanch republican, while fraternally he is identified with the Masonic order. From October, 1889, until 1898, he occupied the presidency of the Young Men's Christian Association of Herkimer.

The religious faith of Mr. Quackenbush is indicated by his membership in the First Methodist Episcopal church of Herkimer, of which he is one of the trustees, while from 1890 to 1915, he served as superintendent of its Sunday school. On October 17, 1915, the school presented him with a loving cup, suitably engraved and bearing these words:

"To Henry M. Quackenbush, twenty-five years superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Sunday school of Herkimer, New York, a tribute of love, confidence and appreciation from the school, 1890-1915."

On October 4, 1871, Henry Marcus Quackenbush was united in marriage to Miss Emily Elizabeth Wood, who was born September 28, 1854, a daughter of Rodman and Amy Jane (Fenner) Wood of Herkimer, New York (formerly of the town of Fairfield, Herkimer county). Henry M. and Emily E. (Wood) Quackenbush became the parents of two daughters, Camilla and Amy; and one son, Paul Henry.

Camilla Quackenbush was born March 9, 1876, graduated from the Herkimer high school in 1893, attended Dana Hall in Wellesley for one year, entered the College of Medicine of Syracuse University in October, 1889, graduated with the degree of M. D. in June, 1903, but has never followed her profession. On September 23, 1903, she was married to Franklin W. Christman (see elsewhere Senator F. W. Christman). They have one son, Marx Quackenbush Christman, born December 19, 1909.

Paul Henry Quackenbush was born June 25, 1879, graduated from the Cascadilla School at Ithaca, New York, and in the fall of 1899 entered Cornell, Department of Mechanical Engineering, graduating in June, 1903, with the degree of M. E. After leaving college he went into business with his father as superintendent of the Quackenbush factory. In May, 1904, he married Louise W. Atwell. They have two sons: Bronson Atwell Quackenbush, born October 30, 1906; and Bruce Wood Quackenbush, born February 11, 1910.

Amy Quackenbush was born October 8, 1886, graduated from the Herkimer high school, attended Syracuse University for one year, graduated from the Kindergarten department of Folts Mission Institute of Herkimer, and for several years she has been director of the Kindergarten department of Folts Institute.

Mrs. Emily E. Quackenbush died in Herkimer on July 2, 1895, at the age of forty-one years. On September 23, 1897, in Mohawk, Mr. Quackenbush was married to Flora Franks, daughter of William and Jennie (Turner) Franks of Mohawk. By his second wife Mr. Quackenbush had two sons: Franks, born April 27, 1899; and Henry Marcus, Junior, born February 22, 1904, who died January 3, 1910.

Franks Quackenbush was educated in the Herkimer grade and high schools, and also attended Union College, Schenectady, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Since leaving college he has been employed as an assistant in his father's factory.

Henry M. Quackenbush, Senior, had one brother, Leslie R. Quackenbush. He was educated with his brother Henry at Herkimer and Whitesboro Academy. Later he graduated as an honor student of his class, with the degree of M. D., from the University of New York. He died in July, 1913, at the age of sixty-seven. Mr. Quackenbush had one sister, Mary Elizabeth (Quackenbush) Brush, a well known writer of children's stories. (For further information on the Brush family, see Donald L. Brush.)

A man of well balanced capacities and powers, Mr. Quackenbush has occupied a central place on the stage of action almost from the time when his initial effort was made in the field of business, while his labors have culminated in the development and promotion of important enterprises and continually broadening opportunities.

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